Sir Michael Gambon, who played Albus Dumbledore, dies aged 82

Actor dies in hospital from pneumonia surrounded by his family

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Sir Michael Gambon, known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series, has died aged 82 following a bout of pneumonia.

His family confirmed the news through his publicist Clair Dobbs.

“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon," the statement read. "Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia. Michael was 82.

“We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time and thank you for your messages of support and love.”

Gambon began his acting career on stage in the early 1960s before moving into television and film. He was mentored by Laurence Olivier.

Although he is best known for playing Dumbledore – a role he took over in the third film of the eight-instalment movie series from the late Richard Harris in 2004, Gambon also had notable roles as a mob leader in Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover in 1989 and as the elderly King George V in Tom Hooper's The King's Speech in 2010.

Gambon was born on October 19, 1940 in Dublin. His family moved to London when he was six. He left school at 15 to begin an engineering apprenticeship and was fully qualified by 21. However, he also expressed his interest in pursuing a theatre career. He sent a letter and CV to Michael Mac Liammoir, the Irish theatre impresario who ran Dublin's Gate Theatre, and later made his debut with a small role in their 1962 production of Othello.

He caught the eye of Olivier who was looking to recruit actors for small roles in his new National Theatre Company. Under Olivier, Gambon was able to build his reputation on stage, going from supporting to starring roles in Othello, Macbeth and Coriolanus.

In the 1980s, his popularity continued to rise including breakout roles in television. In 1986, he played the lead role in Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective and won his first Bafta for Best Actor. In his career, Gambon would also in three Olivier Awards and two ensemble cast Screen Actors Guild Awards for 2001's Gosford Park and The King's Speech.

Outside of work, he was known for his prankster personality and joking around while on set. Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe once revealed how this affected him while they were shooting a scene together.

“Michael Gambon could do that to a frustrating degree," Radcliffe told GQ in October last year. "He learned that he could, when I was a teenager, he could make me laugh very, very easily. Making me laugh right up until the word 'action,' at which point I was pretty much unable to recover and he could just snap into a performance with inherent gravitas and charm. Yeah. He’s awesome."

Gambon is survived by his partner Philippa Hart and their sons Tom and Will as well as his son Fergus from his first marriage to Anne Miller.

Updated: September 28, 2023, 12:40 PM